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  1. ITV Report

Claudia's Law to help 'hundreds of families' with missing loved ones

Claudia Lawrence's father Peter has made a fresh plea 10 years after her disappearance. Credit: North Yorkshire Police/PA

Peter Lawrence, father of missing chef Claudia Lawrence has welcomed a new law in her name, which is designed to give guardians the right to manage the finances of missing people.

Previously, families could only take over the financial affairs of a missing person if they were declared dead.

“Today, emotionally, is positive,” he told ITV News.

“It doesn’t alter the fact that Claudia is still missing and we don’t know what’s happened to her and somebody does, but today is really important because hundreds of families have been waiting for this law to come into force.”

Mr Lawrence campaigned tirelessly for the change since his daughter's disappearance and was made an OBE for his efforts.

Susannah Drury, director of policy and research at the charity Missing People, branded the law a “triumph” for campaigners, adding:“This regulation will mean that families who face the emotional distress of a disappearance will not be blocked from handling the financial and legal affairs of their loved ones.”

Advice on applying for guardianship will be available through the charity, Mr Lawrence said.

Mr Lawrence also pleaded for those who know what happened to his daughter to come forward, 10 years after her disappearance.

He told PA: "I've always said no matter your loyalties to someone else, you must see what effect this has had on the family.

Missing posters for Claudia Lawrence (2011). Credit: PA

"It's really time after 10 years to say what you know about what happened to Claudia.

"I know as well as the police that there must be someone who does know what happened.

"Please say something.

"People are still listening and people are still contacting the police in some way."

Police believe the 35-year-old from York - who has not been seen since March 18 2009 - was murdered but her body has never been found.

Officers previously said they "strongly suspect key and vital information" which would offer a breakthrough in the case is being"withheld".

Peter Lawrence, at his home near York earlier this year, holding a photograph of his daughter Claudia Credit: Danny Lawson/PA

What is Claudia's Law?

Families of missing loved ones will be able to take control of their financial affairs in their absence.

It will mean they can handle everyday financial matters like making mortgage payment and suspending direct debits for bills.

Previously, families could only take over the financial affairs of a missing person if they were declared dead.

Families can apply to the High Court for guardianship of the affairs of a missing person after they have been gone for 90 days or longer

Operated by the Office of the Public Guardian, families will be able to use the scheme for up to four years before having the option of renewing the legal status.

How can you apply?

Applicants will have to provide evidence the person is missing and their credentials, supporting information to show they have not been seen for 90 days and a witness statement.

The application will be made to the Chancery Division or the Family Division of the High Court using a "part 8 claim form", which is available online.

Fees start at £200 to register and means-tested financial support is available to applicants, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said.

The MoJ will publish a step-by-step guide on gov.uk.